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January 26, 2022

Director Karen X Cheng Explains How Businesses and Creators Can Level Up Their Content

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA

Filming innovative videos is no easy feat, but creative director @karenxcheng inspires her one million followers every day by experimenting with visual storytelling across Instagram. “I love making ‘interactive’ videos,” she says, “ones that use Instagram’s features in unexpected ways.”

image of Karen X Cheng

Take, for example, the time she spent a whopping 50 hours creating a playable piano video in Stories to engage her audience in a fresh way. It’s just one of many examples of how she breaks the mold with her work. Below, she shares her advice to small business looking to get more creative on Instagram.

What’s your advice for small businesses who are interested in working with creators but don't know where to start?

The first step is discovering them! I’d recommend searching for hashtags related to your business, product or service, and start following the creators whose content you like. When you start following them, Instagram will start recommending you others who [create] similar [content]—that’s a great way to find accounts. Get a feel for which creators you like, and then when you’re ready to reach out, try both [sending a] DM and emailing them, [because] many creators check only one or the other.

If you're a smaller brand, I'd recommend reaching out to smaller creators as well, since many of the larger creators have inboxes that are flooded with requests. When you do reach out to the creator, it’s helpful to personalize your message—talk about their content, what you like about it and tell them about your business.

What do you think businesses can learn from working with creators and vice versa?

Businesses can learn how to make content that is much more social media friendly—how to make content that doesn’t look like an ad. Creators are experts at doing that.

Creators can learn how to make content within constraints—the constraints being the creative brief or message of the brand. Creativity flourishes underneath constraints, and that’s often when creators can grow the most.

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Karen X shares how you can easily turn any photo into a video concept in Reels.

For you personally, what’s the most rewarding part of being on Instagram?

It’s all the insanely creative and talented creators I follow. I follow lots of VFX artists, stop motion animators, videographers—but it wasn’t always like that! A few years ago, I rarely spent any time on Instagram (and didn’t enjoy it) because I was following the wrong people. Seeing beautiful people in exotic travel locations wearing expensive clothes wasn’t exactly inspiring to me... But once I unfollowed them and started following the right creatives, my Instagram feed has become a constant source of inspiration and ideas to me.

When you spot an emerging trend, how do you decide if making content around that trend is the right move for you and your brand?

There’s pros and cons to hopping on trends. The benefits: they’re fun, they’re usually proven viral formats and your content can more easily go viral.

But there are drawbacks too, especially when a brand attempts a trend. It’s easy to fall flat, and commenters will punish you accordingly. Also, following a trend can make your content feel dated within a few weeks or even days.

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Karen X explains how she grew her brand on Instagram by switching from a “showing off” to a “showing how” approach.

If you could go back in time to the first day you launched your Instagram account, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?

I’d tell myself that it’s truly not too late to start! I kept thinking this—that I was too late to the party, that it was too hard to grow my account. It is definitely competitive out there, but it’s not too late to grow if you’re willing to dedicate the time (and it takes a lot of time, if I’m being honest) to creating great content.

Looking for more inspiration? Read our interview with CEO @luciellenassis, who founded slow-fashion brand Mulungú (@usemulungu) and used Instagram to build a community that feels like a “virtual family.”

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA